Sunday, 21 September 2008

Lost in a riddle last Saturday night

(Bloody hell, three posts in a day! You'd think I was avoiding the gym or something!)

In the early part of last night's Duckie, the ever-fragrant Kim Phaggs stirred a host of teenage memories by playing Mike Oldfield's Moonlight Shadow:

Apparently it came out in 1983, but I remember Moonlight Shadow from the very first Now That's What I Call Music album. I can't remember whether we owned the first one legitimately or whether it was pirated for me and my sister by our Dad, from a bloke at work. Dad had access to a tape-to-tape cassette recorder (the technological exoticism!) and would surprise us with recordings on C60 (actually, I've a feeling the Now albums needed C90 length), with track listings crammed in in his too-large handwriting.

(That was the year he and Mum separated, amid much angst, and the gift-giving to us kids increased on both sides. We weren't complaining. Not about the pressies, anyway.)

My memory of the song has always been connected with my memory of the video. Back then, MTV was only beginning and I used to sit for hours in front of the UK equivalent, Music Box (Mum had had cable television installed, possibly in an attempt to trump Dad's tape-to-tape pop affection-bribes), agog at music videos. I really was a child of the '80s in that sense: when I started buying music of my own, I not infrequently bought stuff on the strength of video alone, or mainly because I'd been seduced by the visuals (Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer comes to mind). I discovered a lot of excellent music this way: I got into Kate Bush largely through Running Up That Hill and Cloudbusting, working my way backwards through her (considerable) canon. I also bought quite a few one-hit wonders - like Moonlight Shadow.

I was fascinated by songs with narratives and always tried to work out the story in the lyrics - or impose a story of my own. The video's very evocative, with moonlit duels, '80s wind-machine hair and plenty of flicky-cloak running down corridors flanked by spooky servants bearing candelabra (although not quite as memorable in this regard as Bonnie Tyler at her classic best). According to Mike Oldfield, the song's inspired by the Tony Curtis Houdini film, with its theme of lovers reunited through spiritualism. I'm not quite sure what I thought the video was about: ghosts from the future and the suggestion of changelings? Whatever, I loved it. And Maggie Reilly reminded me of Kirsty MacColl, which is never a bad thing.

(Listening to it again, I'm reminded that the "4am in the morning" bit irks me slightly. As opposed to what, Mr Oldfield, Ms Reilly? 4am in the afternoon? Pedants R Us.)

Ah, memories. Proust had his madeleine; I have the marvellous Readers Wifes. Long may they surprise me.


SubtleKnife said...

Do you remember when you had to have a really good tapedeck to play C90 tapes? At least that's what my father told me over 20 years ago.

(My word verification is kuuuu, I'm so tempted to try it out loud, the neighbours won't think I'm crazy - much...)

Pogonophile said...

No, I was never privy to that particular piece of retro tech-fu. What happened if one played a C90 in a crappo tapedeck?

SubtleKnife said...

I was warned that it would ruin the tape.

Pogonophile said...

Oh. I thought it might summon the Candyman or something.